Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Gretsch Broadkaster Snare Drum

Arguably one of the finest snare drums ever made was the Gretsch Gladstone two way or three way tension snare drum. ( See blog date Oct 6th, 2010). There wasn't anything else quite like it and great big band drummers like Chick Webb and Jo Jones raved about the Gladstone. Jo even played a complete set of Gladstone drums. In the 30's, Gretsch based it's reputation on this drum and the company "rode" it for all it was worth
 But the Second World War affected drum production and it wasn't until the late 40's that drum companies returned to their normal way of doing business. The music scene was changing also. Be-bop was the trend of the day and Big Bands were starting their long slide into oblivion.

The Gretsch Drum Company recognized this and was johnny-on-the spot in grabbing the lion's share of endorsers who played this "new" music. The list of musicians was most impressive. It  included Kenny Clarke, Max Roach, Art Blakey, Shelly Manne, Art Taylor, Chico Hamilton, and Charli Persip. The company didn't ignore big band drummers either. Jo Jones continued to play the brand but he was joined by Louis Bellson, Sonny Payne, Don Lamond, Mel Lewis, Shadow Wilson and Dick Shanahan.  Thus Grestch  entered it's glory days.  The company started a run that culminated in the 60's, stumbled a bit in the 70's and 80's, righted itself in the late 90's, and is currently enjoying great success in the marketplace.

All of which brings me to the gorgeous beauty you see pictured here. This is a Gretsch Broadkaster Snare Drum from 1947. She has a 3 ply wooden shell, which was advertised as being perfectly round for life, double flange hoops, self-aligning non strip lugs and the " feather touch" snare strainer.

 This drum has no reinforcing rings. Gretsch engineers believed that such rings distorted the sound. She is wrapped in a White Pearl finish. Later Gretsch drums had a silver sealant on the inside of the shell.  This drum does not. Perhaps not the most sensitive drum around and her sound is "old fashioned". That is to say that younger players who like that real poppy snare sound would not care for her at all. But no matter. She's a real sweet heart, and for us older players, she fits the bill perfectly.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The WFL Super Classic Snare Drum

Drum Companies, depending on the size of their advertising budgets, have always tried to build up an impressive list of endorsers. The Slingerland Drum Company, particularly during the Big Band era, had the most impressive roster of players.  Gene Krupa was Slingerland's best salesman and the famous Radio King Snare Drum soon became known as the Gene Krupa Radio King.

The Ludwig Drum Company,on the other hand, made great drums but their list of drummers wasn't nearly as impressive as Slingerland's. In the late 1940's, William  F. Ludwig set about rectifying the situation by signing Buddy Rich to endorse Ludwig Drums.(See blog dated Feb.3rd 2011). In 1947, Ludwig introduced the Buddy Rich Model Super Classic Snare Drum.  This 8 lug beauty came in one size only--5 1/2 x 14.  At the same time, there  was a snare drum called the New Classic or Ray McKinley that was sized  6 1 /2 x 14 (See blog dated  May 24th, 2011). But that drum was a different animal  entirely with 16 twin lug casings. Which brings me to the 6 1/2 x 14  Black Diamond Pearl sweetheart you see pictured.

I've never been able to find a picture of this drum in any WFL or Ludwig catalog. In the1980's, Ludwig produced a drum called the Rock/Concert model that was very similar, but that's about it. In the 40's, there was nothing like this. There were no 6 1/2 x 14 models with these lugs and this strainer.  There was a model called "the Contest" but it had a very different snare strainer on it. So this beauty seems to be a real one off.  Perhaps some Ludwig employee became creative while working on the snare drum line one day. I'm not even sure if the drum has a title. I'm calling it the WFL Super Classic Snare Drum only because it shares all the same qualities as the Buddy Rich model. The shell is made of mahogany and the strainer is the Classic P87 Snare Strainer that was remodeled in 1969.  The later strainer is still in use today.

What matters, of course, is how the drum sounds and, in this context, it's a real winner. It might not have a place in the official Ludwig Drum Company history book, but no matter. As the reader can see and I can attest to, Beauty is not simply skin deep.